Monday, June 16, 2014

In his own words: one-on-one with James Lankford (part 2)


I recently conducted a telephone interview with U.S. Senate candidate and 5th District Congressman James Lankford. This is the second half of the interview (read the first half here):

JF: The federal tax system is a mess. What do you propose to do to fix it?
JL: I’m a FairTax person. I would much rather prefer to have the FairTax. The problem we have is only about 60 people in the House of Representatives are supporters of the FairTax. You’ve got to have 218 people to be able to do anything, to move any set of ideas in the House. We don’t have the majority. The Flat Tax people are in the same spot. They don’t have near the number to be able to form a coalition large enough to be able to move the Flat Tax. And now we’re stuck with “what can we do?”

Dealing with deductions and rates. Our rates are too high, both for businesses and for individuals, and you’ve added in all these deductions over the years to try to fix a very high rate. It’s better to just lower the rate and to take out all those special treatments, so that we can simplify the code as much as we possibly can. The code should be neutral. The best thing that we can have is an IRS that is not looking over everyone’s shoulder trying to evaluate what they can do for free speech, or what they can do with their own group. It’s simpler just to be able to say, “how can we have an IRS, that is a clear code” and individuals know how to follow it, and remove all that interpretation as much as possible from the IRS. It removes the power of the IRS. That’s why I like the FairTax system, because it renders any kind of tax collection as simply that, and not an interpretation.

JF: Some grassroots conservatives have become disenchanted with Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate. Do you think it is time for Senate Republicans to look at having, perhaps, new leadership?
JL: I think I’d be saying that every group will look at both the House and the Senate, it has to be decided every time, but there’s two aspects that go into that. Number one is, who’s actually running for leadership? A lot of people talk about leadership issues, but they don’t actually run for leadership. It’s akin to someone saying, “we ought to have a new Congressman”, or “we ought to have a new Senator in this state”, and someone says “great, then why don’t you run?”, and they say “well, I don’t want to do it, I just think we ought to have somebody else do it”. We find that commonly in House leadership and Senate leadership as well. People complain about leadership, but no one else wants to actually run and do it and stick their neck out, and actually try to accomplish it. Now should the House, and should the Senate press leadership to be as conservative as possible? Actually, we should. One of the reasons I got engaged in House leadership was to be able to press our leadership as far to the right as we can get them. And there have been moments when, in closed door meetings, I’ve been able to plead my case why a more conservative move is better, and won the argument. The only way that you can do that is to actually get engaged and do it. You can’t do it from the outside. For me, it’s a big issue. I do want to make one thing clear, though. People try to make House leadership the problem. I can assure you – Harry Reid and Barack Obama are the bigger problem. The more that Republicans beat up on other Republicans the more we take the focus off where it should be, and that is Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

JF: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment thus far in elected office?
JL: That’s a tough one, Jamison. I try to narrow it down to one thing or something to say this is the greatest accomplishment, but there’s just different directions that I’ve been able to focus on. Let me just throw a couple. I asked to be on the Budget Committee when I first went to Congress, because of the significant issue of how do we get on top of our budget. Four years in a row, of putting a budget on the floor, that actually takes steps to balance, is very significant. The move in the House is still this little bit of fear and trepidation about doing an aggressive budget to move us back toward balance. But, in the committee that I serve on, we’ve been able to push and say “We have to do this. We’ve got to get us back toward balance. We’ve got to show the American people there is a way to do this.”

I’ve been able to push very hard on the Administration in several areas of oversight. While a lot of people talk about these oversight hearings don’t accomplish anything - that’s not proven to be true. The Administration wasn’t doing permitting for the export of liquefied natural gas until I started pushing. And now they’re starting to permit the export of LNG, and this was before we dealt with the Ukraine issues, because I was pushing. The Administration snuck their rule on the social cost of carbon, and to change all the rulemaking on how we do power generation, on everything that uses electricity in America, and I was able to confront them, and they abandoned their rule change and backed off. So, oversight does work. You can push back and win on some of these issues.

I passed a bill called the Taxpayer Right to Know. That is a bill to combat our duplication in government, and one of the major issues we’ve dealt with for a long time is how do we get rid of the waste in government. That bill passed the House, Dr. Coburn has now picked it up in the Senate, and is running with it in the Senate. It is a real solution to get at our duplication in government that we have not had before. It may take a while to get that through.

The fourth thing on this list is the continual push to try to get things back to the states. We made a major change in our transportation bill, that came through two years ago, to give states more authority to make decisions on their highway dollars, and to keep that out of Washington D.C. That was a huge change that’s really made a difference on our construction in our state. I’m pushing the same thing with ObamaCare. The Healthcare Compact that I’m running in the House is starting to build some momentum, and if we can get people to wake up and look at it and say “the states can run healthcare issues far better than the federal government can”, it’s a bold idea that has never been picked up and run in the House on the federal side, and I’m picking it up and running with it. It’s just the right way to go.

JF: Why should voters elect you over your primary opponents?
JL: Well, I’m the only redhead, so, clearly that’s an advantage. I am a person that is really committed to doing my homework, studying the issues, and doing the work behind the scenes. That’s who I am. I’m really did not enter into the fray of the national battle three years ago because I wanted to do a political career. There are major issues that have to be resolved. I felt called in 2009 to run for Congress, and to do what I could to make a difference. I feel that same calling now to step into the Senate and do what I can to be able to serve God and the nation. So I’m gonna not just gripe about the fact that there are problems, and say we have gridlock, I’m gonna find a way to be able to move some of these ideas and move us toward the most conservative solutions, and to try to get some things actually done. What I’ve done in the House is what I’m going to continue to do in the Senate.

You can learn more about James Lankford and his campaign for U.S. Senate by visiting JamesLankford.com.

Once again, I'd like to thank James for doing this interview with me. I offered the same chance to T.W. Shannon, but he and his campaign refused to accept.

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